The Choices involve in Choosing
It is an exciting process, it is definitely not an easy one. Making comparisons between concepts, brush marks, camera moves and compositions is not a task taken lightly and it is inevitable that the final choice provokes debate as to the merits of the winning few, their experience as compared with others, and the perceived likes and dislikes of individual jury members. Whilst the focus naturally falls on the winning artists, the more fundamental act of participation is frequently overlooked. The greater the number of entries submitted, the broader the field for competition. In the case of the CCAA, more entries means a wider and more significant face of contemporary Chinese art presented to the judges, ultimately generating a better impact for both contemporary Chinese art in world standing, and the CCAA award.
The CCAA Association is careful to appoint an international jury that can take into consideration both Chinese and foreign perceptions of contemporary Chinese art works. This inaugural jury comprised the highly respected international Swiss curator Harald Szeemann, collector and founder of the association Dr.l Uli Sigg, well-known critic and professor of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing Yi Ying, and the experienced conceptual artist Ai Weiwei.
Harald Szeemann, Swiss curator who first became known to many following his courtship of Document in 1972. Since Speed at the Kwangju Biennial Korea (1997). In September 1998, Szeemann was appointed director of both the 1999 and 2001 Venice Bienales.
Dr.Uli Sigg, Swiss collector, founder of the CCAA Association and former ambassador to China. Since the early 1990s,Dr.Sig has devoted much time and energy to exploring, supporting and encouraging contemporary art in China, and further promoting it in China and abroad The CCAA Association is a mark of his long-term commitment to the development of this art scene.
Yi Ying, widely known and respected art critic based in Beijing, who is currently professor of art history at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. Since the mid-1980s, Yi Yings’s writings have been published in many magazines and catalogues in China and Taiwan.
Ai Weiwe, conceptual artist from Beijing with broad experience of making art in China and the Usa, who has made a significant contribution to the awareness of contemporary art in China over the last few years with the publication of a privately funded magazine that has provided a much needed platform for conceptual artists in China.
The number of jury members is fixed although the individual members usually rotate each year and comprise one artist, one collector, a critic/arts writer and a noted curator. These will remain fixed.
The Swiss-based association was wounded in early 1998. For the 1998 CCAA, entry forms were sent out in April to be returned by July 31, 1998. The following parameters were set: artists to be of Chinese nationality, resident in China and under the age of thirty-five at the end of 1998. A total of one hundred and nine entries were received. One of the several questions that hard been posed at the outset was how to compare works of different media, particularly where computer and film technology are still relatively new to China. Where international trends are tending towards video, film and new media, both critics and artists in China questioned how “traditional” media like oil painting on canvas might be viewed in the light of a “competition” for contemporary art? And what of a medium like print-making which still struggles to be taken seriously as fine art? Or sculpture that, particularly in China, has suffered at the hands of new concepts like “installation”. These concerns proved groundless and the judges’ final decision was unanimous. The three artists selected were oil painters Xie Nanxing and Yang Mian from Sichuan, and multi-media/conceptual artist Zhou Tiehai from Shanghai. The jury described the works of the winning artists as follows: WANG JIN Knocking at the Gate
Zhou Tiehai transforms artistic style into cleverly presented multimedia strategies circling around the artist-museum-gallery triangle. He does it with wit, irony and subtle but biting criticism.
Xie Nanxing creates intense paintings originating in an inner world of doubt, desperation and self-abuse. He impresses with a rapid but focused development of his theme over the last years.
Yang Mian’s paintings deal with the ever-present advertising cliches of the global village. The strength of his works lies in their ambiguity. They seduce and question at the same time.
National competitions can be an important sorce for discovering new artists. For this reason, unlike art awards such as the Turner Prize in Britain, or the Hugo Boss Award in the United Stated, the CCAA Association does not make a preliminary selection of a limited number of artists from which the jury is asked to make its choice. Instead, within set parameters, any artist may submit a documentation of their work. Thus, it is possible for artists who have never before had the opportunity to show their work to be considered equally alongside those of the widest experience. As a result of participating in the 1998 CCAA, Xie Nanxing, who had not reviously shown in any international exhibition, and only once in a national artists studio event in China, was on of a number of artists invited to show work at the 1999 Venice Bienale. This naturally pleased CCAA founders for with the aim of giving encouragement and support to artists of the younger of emerging generation, the Biennale invitation indicateds the opportunities the CCAA can provide. Moreover, as the years pass by, materials accumulated from submission to the award will form a solid resource of images and artists writings which will be of great significance to scholars and curators seeking to learn more about the work of young Chinese artists.
Much thought went into the form of the award. An exhibition of award-winning works seemed the most obvious option ut it was felt that to reproduce the works of the three winning artists n a book would offer broader coverage to a wider range of people both in China and abroad, who might not have the opportunity to travel to a specific Chinese city to see the works at first hand. In addition to the book, a further cash prize of US$3,000 was awarded to Zhou Tiehai for an outstanding contribution to the contemporary art scene, both in China and in the international art world.
Of entries received. the majority was documentations of oil painting. These were also the most complete. Comprehensive presentation of works in other areas appeared more complex for artists than originally foreseen, an aspect that the Association will encourage artists to consider more carefully in the future. Perhaps it was the connotations inspired by the word contemporary in the title of the award, but there was only a handful of submissions for ink painting. The soul entrant for calligraphy was the work of Chen Guanwu which reworks the form of traditional texts into layers of characters, linked by common radicals or stroke formations. Within the medium of print-making, entries were also noticeably few, although this was made up for with a fine series of woodcuts from Chen Xuhai, a recent graduate from China National Academy in Hangzhou. There was a slightly great number of entries of sculptural work, the most mature being that of Zhan Wang whose presentation reached the late stages of selection. In new media and forms, there was one computer work from He An, and a small m=number of installation pieces, two serious bodies of work coming from two of the few women artists to submit documentations, Zhang Lei and Yin Xiuzhen. Yang Zhengzhong offered a range of conceptual pieces, video works and photography, his versatility coupled with a concise language demonstrating a promising artist. There were performance stills from Zhang Huan, Ma Liuming, Ni Jun and He Yunchang, of whom the first two have received wide exposure in exhibitions abroad. Wlorks by Wang Xingwei, Zheng Guogu and Xu Hongmin were also viewed with interest. Wang Xingwei is a highly intellectual painter who explores the history of art and culture in his wryly humorous compositions. Zheng Guogu has received serious attention for his thematic series of photographic works in which images appear in sequence like contact strips printed in neat rows across sheets of photographic paper. Xu Hongmin is an abstract painter who is largely self-taught. The impact of his paintings lies in his approach to applying paint to canvas and in creating an enormous depth in a picture plane with an extremely minimal range of colours.
In light of the overall quality of many of the documentations of works submitted for the 1998 CCAA, and the difficulty of making aesthetic judgment between various media, for the 1999 award the organizers decided that a list of making aesthetic judgment between various media, for the 1999 award the mergansers decided that a list of ten artists instead of three will be accorded special commendation, of which one will receive the cash prize.